In a shocking study by Johnathon Randon, a law student at the University of Iowa, found that evangelical ministers are struggling to find a coherent message against payday lending. As such, evangelicals are more likely to use payday lending services than others. Money quote:
What he found was that most ministers and churches preached the Bible messages of living within one's means and an economic version of the Golden Rule: treat others in financial matters as you wish others to treat you.
In his research, Landon found that ministers and religious organizations criticize payday lenders for usury, which is condemned many times throughout both Old and New Testaments. Ministers whom Landon talked to called them "loan sharks" and "piranhas" who prey on the poor and uneducated.
Ministers, however, are preaching and educating their congregations against payday lenders, yet, there is a disconnect between the pronouncement and the reception of the message. He does offer some thoughts on this disconnect:
Landon said the ministers offered several possible reasons for this contradiction. Some pointed to a poor education system in the South that leaves many vulnerable to economic exploitation, while others said their congregants' conservative political and economic beliefs lead them to put more faith in free markets than in Biblical teachings.
"Too many Christians let political views guide their biblical interpretation and not the other way around," one minister told Landon.
And then there's the challenge that ministers have faced for ages on a range of moral and ethical topics -- many churchgoers aren't interested in practicing from Monday to Saturday what they hear on Sunday. What happens in church stays in church.
It is important to state that Randon's research shows that payday lending is concentrated in the South, a region dominated by evangelicalism.